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Shaka Smart’s return positions Texas as frontrunner to land No. 1 PF Greg Brown

A key domino fell in Texas’ favor just days ago with the news that Shaka Smart will return to Austin for a sixth season.

Basketball: USA Men’s Junior National Team Minicamp Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The question that loomed largest over the recruitment of five-star Vandegrift forward Greg Brown — certainly in regards to the Texas Longhorns and arguably overall — finally has a concrete answer.

Will Shaka Smart return to Austin for a sixth season?

“Shaka’s our coach,” Texas Athletic Director Chris Del Conte told the American-Statesman on Friday. “Nothing’s changed. We won five of the last six down the stretch, finished third in the conference. We have a good team coming back. Nothing’s changed on my end.”

However, this news certainly changes things for Smart’s Longhorns.

In late February, Brown’s father, a former Longhorns defensive back, bluntly told 247Sports, “if Shaka’s not at Texas, Greg’s definitely not going to Texas.”

A month removed from those remarks, there’s now an answer to that end — Smart is staying in Austin, which quite likely means that Brown will be, too. And that’s straight from the five-star forward’s mouth.

“If Shaka keeps his job, I’ll most likely be going there,” Brown told 247Sports in early March, towards the tail end of the five-game winning streak that ultimately earned Smart another season, and potentially, the pledge of yet another top-10 national prospect.

With Brown’s decision looming less than a month from now on April 24, when the nation’s No. 9 overall talent will choose between Texas, Kentucky, Memphis, Auburn, and Michigan, it’s now expected that Brown playing for Smart will come to pass. As it currently stands, nine of Brown’s 10 Crystal Ball projections favor the Longhorns, with two such picks being placed since the news of Smart’s return.

At least at this juncture, those are the rewards of a half decade of recruiting efforts on Smart’s part — the kind of long-standing relationship that helped Texas land Matt Coleman over Duke could soon be why Coleman and Brown share a season together under Smart’s guidance.

“We definitely love Shaka. He’s definitely impacted Greg over the last 5 years, since Greg was in 8th grade,” Brown’s father told CBS Austin’s Jeff Barker. “That does mean something.”

Now, less than a full month remains before one of, if not the nation’s most explosive talent announces where he’ll spent what’s expected to be his lone season in college, and it appears that things are set to fall into place as they were projected to throughout the vast majority of Brown’s recruitment.

A local product and a Longhorns legacy, Brown has frequented the Forty Acres since Smart’s arrival, and save for the job security concerns that have now been resolved — at least for as long as Brown is expected to grace the college landscape — there likely would have been little question about where Brown was expected to sign — Texas. Of course, those job security concerns did arise, opening the door for Kentucky, Memphis, Auburn, and Michigan to have their say, hosting Brown for official visits throughout their winter and spring pushes, but only weeks before Brown’s decision, Smart is still standing.

As Brown himself said, this, in turn, likely means he’s going to be a Longhorn.

If Brown’s personal projection and those of various industry analysts proves true on April 24, Brown will become the fourth five-star talent to sign with Texas since Smart’s arrival, joining Jarrett Allen, Andrew Jones, and Mohamed Bamba.

But beyond that, Smart’s message to Brown is something far more lasting for Brown than a five-star label should he ultimately remain close to home to don burnt orange.

“If you come here, you’ll be one of the greats.,” Brown said of Smart’s message to him.